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  • Property-a-holics

    Concerns growing over meter tampering in PRS

    Almost three million UK households could be at risk of potentially fatal fires, electric shocks and even street-wide gas explosions caused by an undetected energy meter tamper.

    ·       Almost three million households may be at risk of life-threatening dangers caused by a tampered energy meter

    ·       75% of people wouldn’t know how to spot a tampered meter - leaving them vulnerable 

    The figures come from new research, which revealed that 14% of UK residents have encountered the signs of a tampered energy meter in person; around three million households across the country. Meter cheating causes at least one injury or death every 10 days in the UK.

    The practice occurs when somebody illegally tampers with - or completely bypasses - their electricity or gas meter so it doesn’t properly record usage, meaning they can avoid paying for some or all of their supply. This leaves consumers with unsafe gas and electrical supplies, which in turn can put them at risk of a range of potentially fatal hazards, either in the home or in public property.

    Examples of tampering include a back-to-front meter, a rubber tube where the meter should be or a ‘bridged supply’ – where a wire is used to bypass information going into the meter. A list of more potential signs can be found below.

    Worryingly, despite the prevalence of meter tampering, 75% of people said they wouldn’t feel confident in how to spot the signs – leaving themselves, their families and the wider public at risk.

    Of the 14% of people who have encountered an instance of meter cheating, almost three-quarters (72%) said they noticed it when moving to a new property. Almost two in five (38%) said they had spotted a sign when they bought a new home, with a further 34% of people witnessing an indication of meter cheating when they moved into a rental property.

    With the private rental market continuing to see huge growth – which is only set to increase in the coming years - this is set to become an even bigger problem in future.

    A quarter (25%) of people said they spotted a sign of meter tampering in someone else’s home and a further 11% of people were concerned by a signal of the practice in public property – pointing to a potentially critical safety risk for the community.

    It is estimated that around £400m in electricity and gas is stolen every year through meter tampering. Statistics show that 150,000 cases are investigated each year, with only around 1,500 people charged.

    The study was commissioned by outsourced utility collections specialists Echo Managed Services and Grosvenor Services Group, and endorsed by Crimestoppers UK. It surveyed 2,000 UK residents and found worryingly low levels of awareness with regards to the practice of meter tampering.

    Lloyd Birkhead, managing director of Grosvenor Services Group, said: “These figures make for uncomfortable reading. Despite more than seven million UK adults saying that they have spotted the signs of a - potentially fatal - energy meter tamper, in reality the volume of actual reported incidents is far below this level. A significant amount of ‘spotted’ instances may therefore be going unreported, causing a huge threat to households across the country.

    “As the majority of instances are spotted when moving home, there is a clear opportunity for energy companies and property agents to provide ‘spotting guides’ to help identification of tampering as well as information on who to inform to report the issue.

    “Consumers ultimately need to be equipped with knowledge and understanding to help them eradicate the danger that could be lurking in their meter cupboard.”

    Roger Critchell, director of operations at Crimestoppers UK, which runs ‘Stay Energy Safe’, a free helpline for people to anonymously report energy theft, said: 

    "Meter cheating costs lives. However, given that it is under-reported, it’s understandable that the dangers of this crime are not fully understood by members of the public in the UK".

    “Stay Energy Safe was setup to allow people to give information about energy crimes anonymously, but also to educate them on the potentially devastating consequences if it goes unreported. We hope that through this service, the public can have a significant impact on tackling this issue, which will help to improve the safety of people within their homes.”

    Would you know how to spot the signs of meter cheating? They include:

    ·       A back to front meter

    ·       A rubber tube where the meter should be should be

    ·       A ‘bridged supply’ where a wire is used to bypass information going into the meter

    ·       No visible dial on the meter

    ·       No credit available, but the gas or electricity supply is still working

    ·       Damage to meter casing

    ·       Extra wires attached in or around the meter

    ·       Melted meter casing or burn marks on the casing

    Visit the Stay Energy Safe website for more information.

    SEE ALSO  -        Heating Bills for HMO

    UP NEXT -            Tenant - meter issue

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    What happens when it is reported? I was told by one Landlord that a tenant was caught and ran.
    The landlord, found the property vacant after rent went unpaid. Turned up to the property to find the property was "de-energised" and had to pay a decent sum to get the property linked up again.
    It took about a month for the energy company to come out, giving the Landlord paying mortgage with no rents coming in.

    The real question is - why are they so easy for people to bodge? fix that.

    This is a reason why I prefer proper meters, not pay as you go ones.



    The above post is not financial advice, its often me rambling - passing time on a coffee break.
    If you are looking for the Best BTL Mortgage? Call the Specialist Team at Bespoke Finance.


    Hi Adam

    Essentially there are two types of meters: dumb and smart.  The difference between dumb meters is that they cannot communicate with the owner remotely.  So somebody can tamper with it, and unless the meter operator or  landlord, etc physically looks at it they don't know that it has been tampered with.  There are tamper resistance devices but essentially they are vulnerable to attack in the ways described above (and others which I do not wish to publicise!!)  The meter operator or landlord, etc might have an inkling if they were to have access to the billing data and actually look at it, but how many busy landlords do this?

    Smart meters communicate with the operator (usually through a SIM card).  Forget those useless and to my mind misleading ads on TV about smart meters.  The advantages of this are not looking at your half hourly energy consumption through a stupid display which is going to get lost and deciding to turn off the lights left on upstairs, They are:

    1.  no need to send out meter collectors to read meters

    2. the ability to persuade customers to go onto PAYG tariffs without changing the meter and then be able to disconnect them without a court order to physically enter their premises

    3.  Add credit to meters remotely

    4.  Remove the errors in the Settlement Process operated by ELEXON and assist National Grid in balancing the network

    5. to be able to detect fraud and tampering.   Eg our meters can detect the change in electrical resistance across the terminals if somebody tries to bypass them, or somebody turning off the meter, or unscrewing the cover.

    So your comments about PAYG meters are valid - but not for smart PAYG meters - so essentially they are the answer to your question "why are they so easy for people to bodge? fix that" .  However many of the cheaper suppliers cannot operate smart meters at the moment because of the mess that has been created with the different operating standards (SMETS1 and the current silly SMETS2), so I would be wary of letting a supplier fit a smart electricity supplier at this moment..

    I run the only company in the UK which supplies and operates smart PAYG sub electricity meters  which is growing very rapidly for the reasons above.   Fortunately we are not affected by the nonsense of the different operating standards.

    Gary Wernick

    Landlord Metering